How to Prevent Prostate Cancer
***To all my female readers: If you are considering skipping this post because prostate cancer is a man’s issue— I beg you to keep reading. If you have any men (or boys) in your life—especially if you buy their food or cook their meals—this is important information for you to know.
Did you know that you could fill two college football stadiums with the men that are diagnosed with prostate cancer in our country each year?
That’s 180,000 men.
180,000 of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
180,000 of our husbands, fathers, and sons.
180,000 men that have been struck by a disease that most people believe cannot be prevented.
Can You Prevent Prostate Cancer?
What if I told you that there is a diet that has not only been proven to prevent prostate cancer but has also been proven to slow or even reverse its growth?
What if I told you that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence in the medical literature supporting this claim?
I bet, if such a diet exists, that you’d expect to be able to ask your doctor and hear all about it, right?
Despite the enormity of data that is available, the vast majority of physicians know nothing about the connection between this diet and prostate cancer. Although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, most physicians are taught that prostate cancer is not preventable.
One of the most infamous studies to prove that prostate cancer can be affected by lifestyle modification was done by the famous Dr. Dean Ornish and was published in the Journal of Urology in 2005.
This study included men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and who had opted not to do traditional treatment. The men were assigned randomly into one of two groups.
The first group of men underwent intense lifestyle modification with a special diet.
The second group of men continued with their usual diet and exercise habits.
When the study concluded, the researchers found that the cancer had progressed so much in some of the men that they had to undergo surgery or radiation to treat the disease. All of these men were in the group that had been eating their usual diet.
Within the group assigned to lifestyle modification, there was not a single man that required surgery or radiation at the conclusion of the study.
What’s even more impressive is that the blood marker that we use to detect prostate cancer, called the PSA, decreased in the group of men who underwent lifestyle modification, while the PSA increased in the group of men who continued their usual way of life.
This means that the prostate cancer regressed in the group who ate this special diet and progressed in the men that continued their typical diets.
The researchers also found that when they placed blood from the men who modified their lifestyle into a petri dish with prostate cancer cells, their blood stopped or slowed the growth of 70% of the cancer cells.
As a responsible physician, I want to emphasize that this special diet did NOT get rid of their cancer, but it was certainly able to slow it down!
The Diet that Stopped Prostate Cancer
So what were these men doing in the lifestyle modification arm of Dr. Ornish’s study? What was the miracle diet? What magic herbs were they taking?
It turns out that what they did was fairly simple.
They ate a low-fat vegan diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
They walked 30 minutes, six times per week.
They did some form of stress reduction through meditation, deep breathing, or yoga for one hour each day.
They also took supplements of soy, vitamin E, vitamin C, and selenium.
The Evidence is Overwhelming
There are dozens upon dozens of studies connecting animal protein, saturated fat, and refined grains to an increased risk of prostate cancer. There are even more studies that show that you can decrease your prostate cancer risk by eating a variety of plant-based foods.
If you read no further and just follow the advice outlined above, you will be in good shape! However, for those that want to know the data and some of the reasoning as to why this diet works so well, read on.
I’ve tried to bold the important parts for those of you that fall asleep reading data and statistics. 🙂
At the conclusion of this post, I give some great resources for planning meals that will help you prevent prostate cancer.
Data on Plant-Based Diets
Physician’s Health Study
The Physician’s Health Study was reported in Cancer Prevention Research in June 2015. It revealed that men with prostate cancer who followed a diet higher in vegetables, fruits, fish, legumes and whole grains were significantly less likely to die of their prostate cancer or of other causes. They also lived longer than men who followed a Western diet. In fact, the men who ate the most processed and red meats, high-fat dairy, and refined grains were 2.5 times more likely to die of their cancer.
Adventist Health Study
The Adventist Health Study reviewed the dietary patterns of 26,346 men. Researchers published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in January 2016. They found that those men who followed a vegan diet were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Data on Saturated Fat Intake
AARP Diet and Health Study
288,268 men participated in the National Institute of Health-American Association of Retired Persons Diet and Health Study. Results connecting dietary fat to prostate cancer risk were reported in April 2013. The researchers found that saturated fat intake was associated with a 21% increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and a 47% increased risk of fatal prostate cancer.
North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project
The North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project published their results on the connection between saturated fat intake and prostate cancer aggressiveness just last week. They found that men with higher saturated fat intake were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
Data on the Consumption of Meat
Harvard Physician’s Health Study
A Harvard study involving 15,000 men was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in February 1994. The researchers found that men that consumed red meat five or more times per week were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to men who ate red meat less than once a week.
The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study
The Harvard Health Professionals Follow-Up Study showed that the men with the highest intake of animal fat were 63% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. There was no association between vegetable fat and prostate cancer. The highest risk, however, came from red meat. Men who consumed red meat were 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
Data on Hormones in Meat
In 2009, Japanese researchers published their data on the possible relationship between estrogen concentrations in beef and the incidence of hormone-dependent cancers.
They investigated this because of a large increase in hormone-dependent cancers in Japan over the last 25 years. During this time, they have seen a four-fold increase in breast cancer, an eight-fold increase in endometrial cancer, and a ten-fold increase in prostate cancer.
Over this same time period, the Japanese have adopted more of a Western diet and beef consumption has gone up by 500%. Over 25% of Japan’s beef is imported from the United States, where we implant cattle with hormones to promote growth. We began doing this in 1956 and as of 1999, 97% of US cattle are implanted with hormones.
These researchers gathered multiple samples of Japanese beef and US beef and measured the estrogen levels in each. The results were quite concerning. As you can see in the graph below, beef imported from the US contained significantly more estrogen than the Japanese beef.
So whether it’s the hormones or the saturated fat or other carcinogens known to be present in beef—the answer is not clear.
Data on Poultry and Eggs
Although there have been several studies that have suggested a possible association between poultry consumption and prostate cancer, a 2016 meta-analysis (a study that combines the data from all the available studies) showed no correlation between poultry consumption and prostate cancer.
The data doesn’t look so good for the mighty egg, though. A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Cancer in 2016 combined the data from 15 studies looking at animal protein consumption and prostate cancer. The study confirmed what multiple single studies had already shown—as little as 2.5 eggs per week increased the risk of advanced or fatal prostate cancers.
The case against eggs is highly debated at this point. There are experts on both sides of the argument. I expect it will be some time before we can conclusively say whether or not eggs contribute to prostate cancer growth.
The Data on Reduced Consumption of Meat
Knowing that most men aren’t ready to part with meat for the rest of their lives, researchers looked to see if a reduction in meat consumption would affect the growth of prostate cancer. This study published in Urology in 2008, showed that men could slow the progression of their prostate cancer by decreasing the amount of animal protein in their diet and emphasizing plant-based foods.
Data on Well-Done Meat
More studies than I can count have proven that the chemicals created by overcooking meat increase your risk of multiple cancers, including prostate cancer.
Among the many studies is this study published in Cancer Research in 2005 which showed a 1.4-fold increased risk of prostate cancer for men who consumed well-done meat on a daily basis.
In a study of 23,080 men published in Cancer Epidemiology in 2008, researchers found a 1.26-fold increased risk of prostate cancer for men who preferred their meat well done.
Data on Dairy Intake
There are a number of studies that have connected high dairy intake with prostate cancer risk.
A study published in the British Cancer Journal in 2008 reviewed the diets of 142,251 men. The researchers found that for every 35 grams of dairy protein consumed per day, the risk of prostate cancer rises 32%.
Researchers published laboratory results in Nutrition and Cancer in 2011 which showed that cows milk stimulated prostate cancer growth by more than 30%, whereas almond milk suppressed cancer growth rate by more than 30%.
A meta-analysis published in Nutrition in Cancer in 2004 confirmed a 68% increase in prostate cancer risk in men who consumed milk regularly.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 revealed that high milk intake in adolescence was associated with over a 3-fold increased risk of advanced prostate cancer later in life.
Data on Soy
Regular consumption of soy products has been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, men who regularly consumed soy had a 25% decrease in their risk of developing prostate cancer.
However, this study showed that too much soy (7-18 servings per day) may be detrimental.
So considering dairy may increase your risk of prostate cancer and soy may lower it, it would probably be wise to switch out your cow’s milk for soy milk.
Data on Whole Grains and Refined Carbohydrates
This study published in the American Journal of Nutrition in 2012 showed that men who consumed low-fiber cereals, cake, biscuits, rice, pasta and sugar-sweetened beverages were at increased risk of prostate cancer. A high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages resulted in a 40% increased risk of prostate cancer.
Interestingly, this 2012 study from Cancer Causes Control Journal found that men that consumed rye bread daily in adolescence had a 25% reduced risk of prostate cancer later in life.
Data on Supplements
Multiple studies have confirmed that people who take dietary supplements tend to have a higher risk of developing cancers.
The results of the SELECT trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011 showed that dietary supplementation with vitamin E significantly increased the risk of prostate cancer among healthy men. This same trial showed no benefit to taking selenium.
The Physician’s Health Study also looked at the role of Vitamin E supplementation in prostate cancer and found no benefit to taking Vitamin E supplements. This same study showed no benefit from Vitamin C supplements either.
This doesn’t mean that Vitamin E or Selenium from food sources should be avoided, only that increasing levels with supplements may be hazardous.
Data on Which Vegetables to Eat
Tomatoes contain a nutrient called lycopene, which has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer. A study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in February of 2014 confirming a reduced risk of prostate cancer and especially lethal prostate cancer.
Another study published in 2016 in the International Journal of Cancer reviewed lycopene intake in men already diagnosed with prostate cancer. They found a relationship between low consumption of lycopene and death from prostate cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and more.
A study published in the International Journal of Urology in 2012 reviewed 13 studies in the literature and concluded that cruciferous vegetable intake decreased the risk of prostate cancer by 20%
Another study published in 2007 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed a 40% decrease in prostate cancer risk in men that ate at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables a week.
This study from the International Journal of Oncology in 2016 showed that cruciferous vegetables make certain prostate cancer treatments work better.
Alliums include garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, chives, and more.
Men who ate more than 10 grams per day of allium vegetables were half as likely to develop prostate cancer than those that ate less than 2 grams per day according to this study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2002
A review of 9 studies published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2014 showed a 20% reduction in prostate cancer risk for men that consumed allium vegetables, especially garlic.
Phytates found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds have also been shown to protect against cancer.
This was a really, really long post just to tell you what I’ve already been telling you.
The best prostate cancer prevention diet is a plant-based diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Animal products should be consumed sparingly. Refined carbohydrates should be avoided as much as possible.
I hope this post has motivated you to take a hard look at your diet and make the changes necessary to live your healthiest life. We truly hold the power to change our lives by making wise decisions about the food we put in our bodies.
I know many of you have been eating a typical American diet since the day you were born. It can be really hard to implement change in your life, but you can do it. Just take one step at a time.
I’ve listed some excellent resources to help you find new recipes that are both healthy and delicious. Experiment and find some things you love. You may be surprised at how yummy and satisfying a healthy diet can be.
Let Me Know How I Can Help You
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